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Back to School Tips for Moms and Dads

Young child holding stack of books and back to school written on chalk blackboardFor some of us, the hazy days of summer are done, and that big, beautiful orange school bus has started making its daily route through the neighborhood. For others, the start of school is still looming large in the near future. Whether you’ve got a preschooler or a Senior, back-to-school time is a hectic time for the whole family. Before you exhaust yourself, mentally, emotionally and physically, we have some helpful back to school tips that can make the transition easier for everyone! So, listen up and take notes – there may be a quiz, after all!

Talk with the Teachers: If your child has not yet started school, the Open House or Meet and Greet is coming up soon, and this date should be a big red circle on your family calendar. That opportunity for your child to meet her teacher is a big moment, alleviating much stress and concern of “who will my teacher be?” and “will I like him or her?” Once you and your child have put a face with the name, it gives something positive and concrete to eagerly anticipate in the days before school starts. Open House is also your chance, as a parent, to introduce yourself and learn about the best ways to communicate with the new teacher. In today’s world, there are many options – text, email, social media, phone and numerous classroom apps. As an involved parent (and yes, if you’re reading this article, you qualify as an involved parent), you want the teacher to know that you want to be in the loop regarding your child’s academic and social behavior at school. And, if you want to bring a goody bag or Starbucks Frappuccino, go ahead! After all, a great attitude and a willingness to help will go a long way at the beginning of the school year.

If your kiddos have already started school, no worries – it’s not too late for you! Of course, your child will already know her teacher, but ensure that you have reached and opened the doors of communication. Being an involved (involved, not intrusive, that is) parent goes a long way in and out of the classroom!

Set the Schedule: If you’re like my family, we fly footloose and fancy free in the summer! Bed times, nutritious home cooked meals, busy schedules packed full with activities all go by the wayside as we enjoy some R & R (and some boxed mac and cheese). However, my family in August and my family in July are two very different scenarios. As the start of school approaches, you want to be dialing back on freeform and establishing a solid routine in the household. First and foremost is bedtime as a good education exhausts little minds and little bodies. Now, take it from me that it is difficult to impose a strict bedtime the night before school starts, as you’ll have little monkeys jumping on the bed well past 10:30 pm. Rather, a week or so before school starts put your kids on an earlier bedtime (and if needed, an earlier wake-up time). This way, you’ll be able to ease into their school bedtime rather than going cold turkey. But, bedtime isn’t the only schedule you might change when school starts. Think about TV, iPads and other screen time that our kids, even at a young age, experience. As school starts, you want less of those and more outside play (this helps get the energy out after a day in school), mealtime (there’s a lot of conversation to cover), and quality time with your child – and of course, don’t forget reading time – something that every teacher, from preschool on up to high school encourages (and sometimes enforces). In short, you will find that your school time schedule needs to look rather different from your summer time. So, make the necessary adjustments – even if school has already started, it’s not too late!

baby sunscreen
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen in your child’s backpack for recess!

Gear Up: If you’re getting ready for school, you’re probably making daily trips to Walmart, Target or ordering online. It is truly amazing the amount of supplies that kids, from the youngest to the oldest, need for school. And, if you’ve already started school, you’re still not out of the woods! Glue sticks, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizers, Ziploc bags, pencils – -these are items that teachers need all year round. So, if you think you don’t need the jumbo pack of crayons, think again – crayons break, pencils get sharpened, paper is written upon and glue sticks – well, my opinion is that children eat glue sticks as I’ve never seen them disappear so fast! The point? Know that there will be a supply list and possibly a wish list. Support your teacher – and your child – as best you can. Look for deals, specials and sales. And, anything you don’t use this year – well, there’s always next!

Know your Nutrition: As I mentioned, I’m all about loosening up the reigns in the summer time, so at my house, you might see yummy sugar cereals, an occasional donut or two, delivery pizza and more than our share of juice pouches. School time, however, is a different story. Be aware of what you’re feeding your child in the morning and what you’re sending (or they’re buying) for lunch. Limit sugars and focus more on proteins, fruits, veggies and water. There are plenty of healthy options, whether your child buys or brings a lunch, ranging from cheese sticks and yogurt to boiled eggs and salads, proteins and fruit and much more. If you’re not aware of the school lunch menus, they are readily available to you. Discuss lunch and snack choices with your child, and more importantly, make sure they are taking the time to eat what you send or what they purchase. All too often, especially in a cafeteria environment, talking trumps eating and much of a child’s lunch goes in the trash. Remember – feed their bodies and fuel their minds!

Talk about It: Whether it is your child’s first school experience or their last year before college, talk with them about their days. Discuss what they’re learning, who their friends are, what they did on the playground and by whom they sat. Ask what they ate for lunch, and if their teacher said anything funny. One of the most difficult back-to-school transitions for me, as a mom, was that my child was all “talked out” by the time she got home. I was full of questions for her yet my daughter needed downtime. As a parent, I had to learn to give her some time when she first came home. I’d then lead with an easy question like “what did you eat for lunch?” or “what did you play at recess?” For my daughter, her talk time was at bed, and I soaked it up like a dry sponge! Your child may come home brimming with news or need some time to decompress. Regardless, find your time to engage with her about the day – the Who, the What, the When and sometimes, even the Why. Start them young and hopefully these after school conversations will continue for years and years to come.

Whether the doors have already opened or they’re about to, back-to-school is here! In our house, back-to-school is only slightly less hectic than Christmas and the End of School (to be discussed in a later post). A little preparation, a lot of school supplies and these helpful hints are sure to make the transition better for the whole family. And before you know it, December will be upon us with Winter Break, your munchkins in the house and you’ll be wondering when that big orange bus rolls out again!